Notes on Luke 20:41 and 21:1-4

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In the various parties, if the leaders of religious thought in Israel, did not dare any more to ask the Lord anything, He puts the crucial question to them; not of course to tempt like them, but to convince them that the Pharisees had no more real faith than the Sadducees, and that the scribes had no more understanding of the divine word than the crowd who knew not the law. His indeed was a probe to conscience and an appeal to the scriptures, if peradventure they might hear and live. Alas! they had ears but heard not, and their own Messiah's highest glory they denied to their own perdition and God's dishonor. And this is no peculiarity of the Jews in that day; it applies as really now throughout, and even more conspicuously among Protestants than among Papists. At bottom, all appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, earthly religion slights Christ: sometimes by open antagonism as when His Deity is opposed and His sacrifice set aside; at other times by setting up rival mediators, the virgin, saints, angels, priests, &c., who usurp that which belongs exclusively to Him. To us then there is but one Lord, even Jesus Christ; and as we cannot serve two masters, so we cannot have two Saviors; but either men hate the one, and love the other; or else they hold to the one, and despise the other.
“And he said to them, How say they that the Christ is David's son; and David himself saith in the book of Psalms, Jehovah said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, till I put thine enemies [as] a footstool of thy feet? David therefore calleth him Lord; and how is he his son?” (Ver. 41-44.)
There is and could be but one answer. The Messiah, David's son, must have been a divine person in order to be David's Lord, the everlasting enigma of unbelief, now as then the stumbling stone to the Jew. Yet is it as certainly if not as clearly and continually presented in the Old Testament as in the New; and as it is essential to His proper dignity and enhances incalculably the grace of God, so it is indispensable that there should be an irrefragable rock of salvation whether for an Israelite or for any other. Without the Godhead of Jesus, however truly man as He is, Christianity is a delusion, an imposture, and an impossibility, as Judaism was an unmeaning child's play. To Him, God and man in one person, do the law and the prophets bear their unequivocal witness, not more surely to God's righteousness without law than to the Christ's glory above law, however He might deign to be born of woman, born under law, in order to redemption for those who were in this position. (Gal. 4)
But man fears to face the truth till he is born anew. It annihilates his pride, it exposes his vanity in every sense, as well as his guilt and ruin; it makes God the only hope and Savior. Man does not like what grinds his self-importance to powder, and, unless grace intervene savingly, will risk everlasting destruction rather than yield to the testimony of God. But the truth erects a judgment-seat in the conscience of each believer, who now owns himself lost that he may be saved, and saved exclusively by His grace who will be the judge, to their endless misery and shame, of all who despise His glory and His mercy now.
To the believer no truth is simpler, none more precious, than the Christ a man yet God, son of David yet David's Lord, the root and the offspring of David, who came to die but withal the living and eternal God. On the intrinsic dignity of His person hang the grace of His humiliation and the value of His atonement, and the glory to God of the kingdom He will take and display as Son of man. He is now the center to faith of all who are brought to God reconciled by the blood of His cross; as He will be of all things that are in heaven and that are on earth reconciled by Him; but if not God, equally with the Father, such a place of center in grace or glory must be a deadly blow at that honor which is due to the only God, because it would be giving to a creature however exalted the homage proper to Him alone. His Godhead therefore is essential to His character of the model man; the denial of it logically implies the horrible libel and lie that He is no better than the most fraudulent and successful of impostors. This may serve to prove what the guilt of discrediting the Son of God really is; this explains why whoever denies the Son has not the Father, while he that confesses the Son has the Father also. He who honors not the Son honors not the Father who sent Him.
Therefore is judgment given only to the Son; because He alone in infinite love stooped to become a man and to die for men, yea for the guiltiest of sinners, who alas! repaid His love by the deepest dishonor, rejecting Him when He came in grace, as they reject Him preached in grace still, who will judge them as Son of man in that nature because of the assumption of which they despised Him and denied His Godhead. Thus will God compel all, even the proudest unbeliever, to honor the Son as they honor the Father. But this will be to their judgment, not salvation. Eternal life is in hearing Christ's word now and believing Him that sent His Son in love: otherwise nothing remains but a resurrection of judgment in vindication of His injured name, the rejection of the Father in the Son.
We need not dwell on other truths wrapped up in the citation from Psalm 110, though of the deepest interest and elsewhere applied in the New Testament. Here the object is as simple as it is fundamental, an inextricable riddle to the incredulous, Jews or Gentiles. But it is especially the former who have ever stopped short there, silenced but not subdued. As for such Gentiles as professed to receive the only solution in His person, the enemy finds other ways to nullify the truth wherever they are unrenewed by grace. False friends are no better than open enemies, but rather worse; ungodly men turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, and denying the only master and our Lord Jesus Christ, whose judgment is just and sure, as we sec in the solemn epistle of Jude.
“And, as all the people listened, he said to the disciples, Beware of the scribes that like to walk in robes and love salutations in the markets, and first seats in the synagogues and first places at the feasts, who devour the houses of widows and for a show make long prayers: these shall receive more abundant judgment.” (Ver. 45-47.)
The difference in the object of the Holy Spirit's writing by Matthew and Luke, as well as Mark, comes out here in a striking way. For the former devotes a considerable chapter to their position, their utter failure and the stern judgment awaiting such hollow formalists from God. Mark and Luke touch the question only, the one as a falsifying of service, the other on moral ground, for the instruction of disciples. What is specially Jewish, either in title or in forms and habits, disappears; what Mark and Luke record is not loving service but selfishness and hypocrisy, the more fatal because of the profanation of God's name.
Luke again is with Mark in giving the widow poor but rich, and this doubtless for reasons analogous to their report of the exposure of the proud and empty scribes; Matthew has her not at all. For far different was the Israel of the then day, and with this he is occupied, the judgment coming on Jerusalem, rich but poor, with which the Lord concludes His denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees.
“And he looked up and saw the rich casting their gifts into the treasury, but he saw also a certain poor widow casting into it two mites. And be said, Verily I say unto you, that this poor woman hath cast in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have cast into the gifts, but she out of her need hath cast in all the living which she had.” (Chap. 21: 1-4.) It is a lovely picture of devotedness in the widow: how much lovelier to behold Him, who gave her the faith and drew out her love, admiring and so richly appreciating the fruit of His own grace! May He have so to speak of our wealth toward God in the day that approaches, when mammon and every false estimate shall have disappeared forever!